As if ruled by near Swiss clockwork precision, 48-year old singer/songwriter Ryan Adams once again made good on his unwritten pledge to dish out yet another collection of new music on average about every third month. This time earmarked by his ninth project containing previously unreleased material since December 2020 — tenth, if considering his mid-March Return to Carnegie Hall EP — the alt-folk heavyweight re-ascends into the global ether by way of a full rework of brit-pop giants Oasis‘s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? Offered once more as a download giveaway to newsletter subscribers via his PaxAm label hub, and already slated for a subsequent full blown release on licensed services, the reimagined batch appears as a double-sided 14-cut reinterpretation of the original 1995 rock classic.
Thus wrapping up a wholly uncalled for, yet overall more than gratifying, trilogy of covers, Adams’s Morning Glory follows in the wake of his own personal takes on two other cornerstones of modern folk rock: Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks and Springsteen‘s Nebraska — originally unveiled on last Christmas day, and at the beginning of December, respectively. This latest exploit is handily the most daring and wildest set of liberties the North Carolinian seized as part of the unofficial cover series yet. From the re-sequenced tracklist, the upgrade of as many as four lead single B-sides (“Talk Tonight“, “Headshrinker“, “Acquiesce“, and “Rocking Chair“), to the almost complete de-electrification of the instrumental canvas, Morning Glory sees a worshipping scholar affording himself just enough envelope-pushing inertia to both celebrate and advance the work of art at once.
In-between such heaps of legendary recordings rearrangements, the PaxAm founder also found time to announce to the world that he had gotten his old revered Cardinals band back together earlier in March — aligning the newsflash with the release of their stern piano-led comeback single “Dreams of the Working Class“. In the same breath, he also squeezed in the dispatch of a forthcoming gargantuan US Coast-to-Coast tour accompanied by the band. Their time on the road starts next month and will keep a newly redrafted lineup, inclusive of Brad Pemberton on percussions, Chris Stills on guitars, Daniel Clarke on keys, and A-list record executive moonlighting as bassist Don Was, occupied traveling across America through mid October.
Meanwhile, as he’s wrapping up the final European leg of his year-long solo acoustic run, the former Whiskeytown ringleader made sure to cue up the drop of Morning Glory with his physical arrival in ole Blighty, just before Easter. In great British catholic spirit, he also saw fit to stitch a revised and regionally fitting front cover on the record, tributing folklore Mancunian TV soap opera Coronation Street (see below), aside from of course indulging in the deconsecrated exercise of resuscitating the seminal collection of songs on the margins of Christianity’s parallel antic a few days later.
To humour the analysis a smidge deeper, it’s interesting and perhaps not coincidental to constatate how Adams plucked one cornerstone album for each different decade leading up to the new millennium. Albeit not churned out strictly chronologically, Blood on the Tracks (1975), Nebraska (1982), and now Morning Glory (1995) can all serve as auxiliary stepping stones on a roadmap that charts the impact and influence of watershed rock albums on both the wider cultural zeitgeist, and on Adams himself. Bearing witness to his increasingly exuberant rendering of these musical staples as part of the incubatory artistic heritage that moulded him is to watch a musician having more and more fun doing it (something discussed as early as in the first cover series instalment). It’s a touch tired and microwaved posit, but the key here is in the process, rather than the output.
Progressing from the unassuming and somewhat dejected pound-for-pound rendition of The Boss‘s ten tracker — with only minor compositional personalisations and musical derivatives — to then alight at the braver and aesthetically bolder instrumental coda choices laced into Dylan’s fifteenth studio LP, the Jacksonville, NC-native seems to have come full circle with the Gallagher bros’ magnum opus. By his own admission, this latest two-sided reverb and delay-effected affair stands to pull the curtains on his interpreter phase — at least for a while — an assertion that lends a heightened sense of closure over what some Oasis purists might brush off as iconoclast creative choices on Morning Glory.
With the sole exception of the record’s opener (“Hello“) and closer (“Champagne Supernova“), every single other number on Adams’s Morning Glory is completely refactored and repositioned compared to its reference LP, fundamentally forging a whole different album listening experience—not to mention the seemingly untouchable tracklist contamination through the inclusion of almost 30% of cutting room floor material. So the project is now fourteen cuts long, spanning an hour and five minutes of runtime, as opposed to the brit-pop chart-toppers’ 50 minutes and de facto only ten songs (sans the two “Swamp Song” skits). Parochial absolutists of the Manchester prodigal sons couldn’t necessarily be faulted for being up in arms at the mere thought of it.
This not only warrants the inquiry of whether Adams’s Morning Glory can even be considered a covers album of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? in the first place, but it also refracts a whole new beam of light on what is, perhaps notoriously, the Cardinals frontman’s biggest and most successful track to date: his 2004 Love Is Hell cover of Oasis’s “Wonderwall“. Then smartly and tastefully stripped back to a thin acoustic backbone and drenched in reverb compared to the reference track, his 2023 version is, well, even more stripped back to a thin acoustic backbone, and even more drenched in reverb.
Right from the inaugural announcement that he was working toward his own take on the Manchester heroes’ second studio album last year, the question arousing the single largest amount of curiosity amongst his listenership was, understandably, how he would’ve re-dressed one of the most popular songs of all time. Once again. By sticking to the tried and trued guns of his first groundbreaking recitation, one can’t but feel like he not only missed a brilliant opportunity to breathe new life into what’s almost become a laughing stock within his formidable catalogue, but it also raises a whole slew of questions over how enslaved by that 2004 version he’s become. Almost to the point of feeling pressured to build a whole cover album around it.
In his concluding defence, Adams did introduce his Morning Glory as “[w]eirdly like LOVE IS HELL had a brother from another mother maybe”. Definitely Maybe: with twenty-twenty hindsight, chances are that covering the Oasis debut could have made for a fairer choice to both him and the music.
I’d like to thank you sincerely for taking the time to read this and I hope to feel your interest again next time.